Blu-ray firmware – time to be up-front

Recently I’ve looked at a couple of Blu-ray players where they appear to be sticking to the old consumer electronics model: put a finished product on the shelf and have nothing more to do with it until it breaks.

That simply won’t work for Blu-ray players. They are programmable devices, with the programs residing on Blu-ray discs (usually in the form of BD-Java code). New discs are being released all the time, pushing further the boundaries of what discs are supposed to do. They can’t be tested on every player out there, so the players have to be updated from time to time to ensure compatibility.

So we, and CE manufacturers, are going to have to get used to the idea that consumer electronics is no longer a ‘final product’ as it’s sold, but is subject to firmware revisions. To that end, the most recent firmware needs to be readily available. Much of the industry already has automatic firmware updating directly from the Web for their BD-Live Blu-ray players: Panasonic, Sony, Samsung, Oppo etc. When you switch any of those on, they query home, so to speak, to see if a new firmware is available and ask you if you want them to update themselves.

Normally this is just to ensure disc compatibility, but entire new capabilities can be added. For example, a Samsung player added to itself YouTube access in an automatic firmware update.

So the days of finding out what firmware is installed by going to a specific place in the setup menu, then typing in a seven digit access code, are, or should be, long gone.

This entry was posted in Blu-ray, Equipment, Firmware. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Blu-ray firmware – time to be up-front

  1. treblid says:

    I respectfully disagree, as I am a strong advocate against firmware updates for CE in its current form. OK if the update is to add new features (as mentioned by you and by Denon to add DynEq/DynVol/HDMI-CEC for example). I will even pay for it.

    But often times firmware updates are more to fix bugs than add features. In my mind the capability of firmware updates allow CE makers to be lazy and not test their product properly before making it for sale. I’m sick of buying equipment only to find bugs that can be fixed by an update. What am I, I pay them money to beta test their product?

    Updating firmware also has its risks (bricking) and it’s unfair to the consumer to be forced to shoulder this responsibility (esp when the CE is out of warranty). Why should I risk updating my CE just to get that disc playing? And is this all about fixing bugs which shouldn’t happen in the first place, or update DRM to protect against piracy when I’m not a pirate!

    That’s why I’m using a PC to play my BD movies. And vowed not get myself a consumer BD player until this industry have rid itself of this unhealthy practice. And I rent most of the time too to prevent any possibility of being stuck with a huge pile of unplayable plastic in the future.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m always on the bleeding edge when it comes to both software and firmware. But the way firmware updates are being pushed upon me right now – I have everything to lose and nothing much to gain (BDLive! is something I can live without for now).

  2. Stephen Dawson says:

    No need to be respectful.

    The problem is that responsibility for compatibility is divided between the disc and hardware makers. No matter how extensively I test my new Blu-ray player, next year might turn up a disc that works in a PS3 (I expect that disc makers check this for compatibility) but not in my player. That would imply that either the BD-Jave interpreter in the player doesn’t perform to spec, or the disc does something non-kosher. But without some kind of arbitrator to investigate and then tell either the disc maker to re-master, or the equipment manufacturer to fix the firmware, it all falls back on the equipment maker.

    I sympathise though. The first few times I did a firmware upgrade I did it with a great deal of trepidation, half expecting the unit to be useless after the event.

    As to BD-Live, there is still nothing compelling yet. Sony have this ‘MovieIQ’ thing which allows you to get some information on the people who made the movie as it plays, but this is pretty light on.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *